“By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.” Exodus 13:21
Did you ever notice how God becomes just what we need from Him in any given moment?
Perhaps you haven’t noticed. Maybe, like the Israelites, you reap the benefit of His presence without ever giving it much thought. They were often so preoccupied by what they lacked, they didn’t appreciate what they were given. Instead of thanking God for His rich provision, they grumbled.
In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Exodus 16:2-3
Really? They spent their time in Egypt sitting around pots of meat? Isn’t it amazing how quickly the human mind forgets and distorts. Perhaps you’d like to see what caused God to send Moses to get them out of Egypt in the first place.
The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. Exodus 2:23-25
God added these words when He called Moses from the burning bush.
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering . . . I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.” Exodus 3:7,9
The memory of their groaning in backbreaking slavery quickly faded to illusions of grand feasts. Why? They were hungry. A desire of their flesh rose up and wasn’t satisfied, and that one thing became the entire focus of their thoughts. They forgot the extent of their suffering, as well as God’s miraculous displays of power on their behalf. And their momentary hunger made them twist His intentions. They threw God’s plan to rescue them back in His face, claiming He meant them harm.
Ever been there? That’s the nature of the unredeemed heart, dear one. It deceives. No wonder Jeremiah 17:9 states,
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
And that deceitful heart left unchecked brings bitterness to the soul.
Perhaps this is why scripture continually points the people of God toward gratitude. Gratitude shifts our gaze and changes the direction of our thinking. Instead of emptying the soul by dwelling on what we lack, it fills it by celebrating what we possess.
Sadly, few consistently choose the path of gratitude. Our own hunger for things we desire clouds our view and overshadows our many blessings. And that’s dangerous. Scripture teaches that refusing to acknowledge God with thanksgiving leads to futile thinking and a hard, dark heart.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools. Romans 1:21-22
Ingratitude made the Israelites fools—fools that desired to run right back to the oppressive captivity they had cried out for deliverance from. Amazing.
Before we start casting stones at the house of Israel, it might be wise to shift our gaze to the nearest mirror. Is your heart content in the journey God has you on, dear one? Do your lips offer praise for the Light that marks your path, or are you preoccupied with an area that remains in shadow? Are you hungering for something so ferociously that all that God has already poured into your life feels empty?
God wants to see your heart at peace, beloved. He longs to satisfy your soul with a contentedness only He can bring. You see, dear one, only God Himself can satisfy.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:14
Do you want a little joy and gladness that carries you all your days? It comes as the result of a choice. Choose to look at what God has done, not what He has yet to do. Offer Him praise and gratitude. You may just find that you encounter God Himself.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:4-5
Praise and gratitude usher us into the presence and power of God. Thanksgiving allows us to enter His gates. Praise carries us into His court. And when we encounter Him, we discover just what we needed. Emptiness fades. Our hearts fill with His very presence.
And we are satisfied.